"Groceries Not Guns" (Taking Aim at Corporate America)


Best Insight (GOLD)
Canadian Success on The Global Stage (GOLD)

Client Credits: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Shannon Watts, Founder
Steve Geer, Deputy Director
Jennifer Hoppe, Deputy Director

Agency Credits: Grey
Patrick Scissons, Chief Creative Officer
Logan Gabel, Rob Trickey, Raul Garcia, Jay Melnychuk, Yusong Zhang, Art Directors
Patrick Scissons, Graeme Campbell, Dave Barber, Sue Kohm, Writers
Vikki Kuzmich, Terri Vegso, Erica Metcalfe, Jay Gammy, Producers
Matt Kantor, Phil Moreira, Biko Franklin, Development
Laura Rovinescu, Darlene Remlinger, Account Service
Production (Which One): The Field
Eden Robbins, Photographer
Cherie Sinclair, Producer
Hardave Grewal, Retoucher
Production (Not Allowed): SPY Films
Tamir Moscovici, Director
Samy Inyaeh, DOP
Merrie Wasson, Marni Luftspring, Carlo Trulli, Producers
Post Production (Not Allowed): Rooster, Alter Ego, Fort York
Paul Proulx, Editorial
Wade Odlum, Colourist
Mike Bishop, Flame Artist
Audio (Not Allowed): Apollo Music
Tom Hutch, Daenen Bramberger, Spencer Hall
Audio (Calling All Krogers)
Adam Damelin, Nathan Handy, Matt Gauthier
Production (Big Question): 1One
Post Production (Big Question): Wingman
PR Agency (Skip Starbuck Saturday): Berlin Rosen
Stephanie Mueller, Taylor Maxwell
Production (Choose One): Sugino Studio
Eden Robbins, Miho Matsuoka, Sarah Gheriani, Taeko Yamanouchi


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):March 11, 2013 – April 2015
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: March 11, 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: N/A

a) Overall Assessment

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”

Walter Elliot


In December 2012, the Newtown massacre left 28 people dead, including 20 children. This unspeakable act spawned the creation of MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA (MDA) by one concerned mom in Illinois. Much like MADD, MDA was created to galvanize the public to demand action from legislators at the state and federal levels, corporate citizens, and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms.

As a brand new organization – literally only 4 weeks old when they connected with us – MDA was running high on emotion but low on brand and communication strategies that could guide its efforts.

Nearly eight American children are shot and killed everyday. Any other cause for this many deaths would be immediately investigated and regulated. However, not a single federal law has been passed in decades to prevent gun violence – not after Columbine and not after Newtown. The conversation on gun control in the USA is fraught with partisan politics, civil rights debates, constitutional issues, media spin and the influence of lobby groups and industry of which the NRA is the most notable, powerful and well funded. 



GREY’s first campaign for MDA, “Choose One”, launched in March 2013 and exceeded all client expectations.

The campaign grew membership from one concerned mom to 105,000 actively engaged members. It generated 243 million unique views and was featured on CNN, NBC, ABC and The Washington Post. It was recognized by the White House and helped achieve 91% public support for the proposed assault weapon ban BUT it failed to win over Senators who were in the pocket of the NRA.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

There was a single, unilateral goal:  find a new way to put pressure on lawmakers to bring greater emphasis to gun reform.

Ancillary goals:

-  Continue to grow membership and fan base for the MDA organization.

-  Continue to raise national awareness with the media and public for more       sensible gun laws.

c) Annual Media Budget
$200,000 - $500,000

d) Geographic Area
National USA

a) Analysis and Insight

We dove into understanding the issue.

First, we had the world’s largest and most engaged focus group. All 105,000 member moms were ready and willing to help us help them. We conducted countless interviews to understand what motivated them, concerned them, worried them, and finally what got them to take action.

Second, we engaged in media monitoring across channels, where the topic of gun reform was being actively discussed, debated, and analyzed. Not only were we hearing what pundits and politicians had to say, and the outrage being raised on both sides of the issue, but we also saw what was happening in social media and the blogosphere to get a sense for how America itself was feeling and acting.

Third, we looked into other facets of American society that were seeing positive change led by corporate America “lobbying for good”. 

We learned that:

- Many retail outlets in America supported America’s “Open Carry” law, which allows the public to legally carry loaded guns – including assault weapons – inside their stores. With the American gun debate in full-force, ‘pro-gun’ advocates were now exploiting that right, flaunting loaded weapons in public.

- Concerned moms felt that this reckless behavior posed a legitimate threat to public safety, given the numerous accidental discharges & deaths that had occurred. But instead of taking a position on the matter, most major retailers stayed silent.

- Traditionally, nonprofits promoted social issues in the halls of Government. But corporations, with their connections, wider lobbying leeway, and proficiency in influence, are often better equipped to make the case for stopping domestic violence, improving safety on the roads, thwarting climate change, to name a few social change efforts.

- Over the last several years, CSR has undergone intense analysis, profound change, and new prominence. In the past, companies mostly undertook defensive CSR initiatives to mitigate the impact of their business activities or to repair their reputations. More and more, however, companies are adopting a proactive stance, viewing the improvement of relations between business and society as a new opportunity for innovation and competitive advantage.

 (Source Kyle Peterson & Marc Pfitzer, Stanford Social Innovation Review)

 Through this journey of discovery and analysis, we landed on the following insights:

  • To get the attention of lawmakers, we had to pivot our lens and instead create enough public pressure on corporate America to get them to take up the gun reform mission. Though it wasn't likely we could convince Corporations to officially lobby on our behalf, we could find new partners willing to take on our cause if we put a little pressure on them to look at the role they played in the issue.  Organizations sensitive to public opinion or small changes in top line sales could be just enough of a push to bring a bigger voice to bear.
  • The lack of personal relevancy was holding back the public’s intellectual support from becoming a commitment to take action.


Finally, our analysis prompted us to tighten our initial objectives.

There was a new single, unilateral goal:  create enough public interest and pressure on Americas Major Retailers to get them to take on the gun reform mission.

Ancillary goals:

-        Continue to grow membership and fan base for the MDA organization.

-        Continue to raise national awareness with the media and public for more sensible gun laws.

-        Raise mass awareness of the absurdity of Open Carry laws. 

-        Get American Retailers to change their individual policies on carrying guns in their stores. 

b) Communication Strategy

Taking aim at Corporate America with the power of “momfluence”. 

“With more than 83 million mothers in the United States, women with children represent not only the most powerful group of consumers but one of the largest voting blocks in America. The influential soccer mom of the 80s, credited with voting Bill Clinton into the White House and catching the attention of Fortune 100 brands, has been amplified.”  

Today, the smart-phone-carrying Facebook-posting American mothers are an important voice that, when harnessed, can wield significant change. They may be accidental activists, but in the political arena, apolitical “moms” advocating the safety of children have immunity.

Source: “How Influential Mothers are Moving America's Thinking on Everything from Politics to Products” Maria Bailey 

Phase 1

Starbucks was one of the many major American retailers that allowed the public to carry armed weapons inside their stores where state ‘open carry’ laws allow it. This was despite Starbucks banning smoking 25-feet from all locations in the interest of public safety.

If more moms knew they were putting their families in harms way just by visiting a Starbucks, this could be a powerful rallying cry to continue the dialogue with all Americans thereby keeping the pressure on every level of Government.

Asking moms to skip just one visit per week could translate to significant financial losses for Starbucks and quickly became the rallying cry for our unifying movement, “Skip Starbucks Saturday”.

Phase 2

America’s Grocery retailers.

Phase 1 was a resounding success (see business results section) with many retailers like Starbucks and Target now on board.  However the largest grocery chains in America, Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway remained silent.

We needed to stir these influential moms into action again by connecting their frequently visited grocery store directly to the plight of gun violence.

We would do this by highlighting existing policies, comparing what was not allowed inside Kroger stores, with the absurd reality of what was: loaded guns.

a) Media Used



Channels used

March 2013 – May 2013

"Choose One"



Online video

PR Outreach

Jul-13 – January 2014

"Skip Starbucks Saturday"



Online video

PR outreach


Aug-14 – April 2015

"Groceries Not Guns"



Digital Media

Online video

PR outreach



b) Creative Discussion

Phase 1.

 On July 13th “Skip Starbucks Saturday” was launched. 



We recognized that the Starbucks cup and logo were iconic marketing symbols so we played on this by creating a stand-in cup as our key visual centerpiece. Instead of seeing the famous mermaid with her tail fins upright she was altered just slightly to have guns ablaze.

Check-boxes used to personalize your Starbucks drink provided additional inspiration. By reframing what those boxes say, we could personalize gun violence, with some of the real names from the more than 3000 children and teens that died from gun violence in the past year.

‘Gun Cups’ were distributed at coffee stations during Moms Demand Action rallies, as part of Skip Starbucks Saturday. Individuals could personalize their cup by calling attention to a victim of gun violence in their US state.

And we didn't stop there. #skipstarbuckssaturday was more than a boycott. This grassroots movement featured social posting of photos & videos, morning coffee drops to media, mom rallies close to Starbucks locations and clever guerilla tactics at Starbucks like asking the barista for an “extra shot of gun sense” when ordering.

And just 4 months into our campaign on September 18th, 2013 when CEO Howard Shultz declared guns were no longer welcome inside Starbucks stores, “Skip Starbucks” was immediately replaced with “Celebrate Starbucks”, with moms now actively thanking and supporting the company across all those same media channels.

Phase 2

In phase 2, our idea came to life first by using side-by-side visuals (similar to our initial “choose one” campaign) contrasting what wasn’t allowed in Kroger (skateboards, outside food, going shirtless) versus what was (loaded guns).


These images were first released as social posts, digital banner ads, and to the online news media.

Actual consumer calls to Kroger stores were recorded (and produced in radio format) and released to online communities for sharing in addition to rich media ad units.

Film creative was deployed as pre-roll and posted on social networks.

Customer boycott receipts (from shopping at Kroger competitors) were posted in a ‘World’s Longest Receipt’ microsite at groceriesnotguns.com

And finally social content was produced for “liking” and sharing; including “The Big Question” which profiled Kroger corporate headquarters in Cincinnati as the only Kroger location that doesn’t permit guns on the premises.

c) Media Discussion

Without a traditional media plan, creativity was key in executing a national campaign. A conventional approach would have seen a mass advertising campaign.

Instead, we embraced our limited resources to inspire some innovative thinking and used our moms often as the medium and the messenger. We created content that could have been used more traditionally as TV, radio, print and out-of-home but instead pushed our creative largely through digital channels.


Type of Content

Media Placement

Social Posts (side-by-side ads)

Social networks, media outreach

Digital Ads  (side-by-side ads)

Digital media

Rich media (Calling Kroger stores)

Digital media

Online Video (Not Allowed)

Pre-roll, social, media outreach

Online Video (Which is which)

Pre-roll, social, media outreach

Website (World Longest Receipt)


Digital Content from Stunts, Rallies & Event

MDA Facebook & Instagram

MDA-produced social content

MDA Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages

UGC-produced social content

MDA Facebook & Instagram

Kroger Petition sign up


a) Sales/Share Results

The impact of our “Skip Starbucks Saturday” campaign was significant.


On our goal to create enough public interest and pressure on corporate America to get Starbucks to change their corporate policy on carrying guns in their stores, we delivered.


  • On September 18, 2013 Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz bowed to public pressure in a national televised address that was broadcast across all major networks.
  • A full-page open letter retraction from Starbucks appeared in every major US newspaper, stating a renewed corporate vision that guns were no longer welcome in its stores.
  • Earned media coverage of the September 18th announcement alone exceeded 320 million PR impressions.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

Against our ancillary goals we also delivered:

  • We continued to grow membership and fan base for the MDA organization.
  • Moms Demand Action community fan base organically increased more than 10% during the Skip Starbucks Saturday campaign, from 105,458 to 117,027 active followers.


  • We continued to raise national awareness with the media and public for more sensible gun laws.
  • The program actively engaged 346,097 moms across America with user-generated photo and video submissions.  Earned media from this activity totaled 3,986,864 impressions.


Additionally, this first phase garnered outstanding industry acknowledgement, with “Skip Starbucks Saturday” receiving multiple Cannes short-lists, and a Cassies Gold in ESST.

c) Other Pertinent Results

And we didn’t stop there,


The impact of our “Groceries Not Guns” campaign was considerable.


‘Groceries Not Guns’ generated more than 350MM unique impressions from earned media alone.


But more important than all the coverage, is the direct impact it has had:


  • Over 1.5M individual responses, including; 360,000 petition signatures, 16,000 complaint calls to Kroger and an astonishing 213,000 new MDA member sign-ups, more than doubling our active member base to over 330,000.
  • Participating community members created over 2000 pieces of UGC social content.
  • Over $250,000 in lost Kroger (boycott) revenue was posted by consumers in first 48hrs at groceriesnotguns.com alone.
  • After witnessing the actions around Kroger - Safeway/Albertsons, the #2 grocery chain, changed their policy to become gun-free.


Additionally, this campaign garnered outstanding industry acknowledgement, with awards at Marketing, Applied Arts, The One Show and 9 Cannes Lions (4 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze).


Finally the combined effort of targeting high volume retailers, during a period where legislative paralysis has brought no new gun laws, our campaigns have created 15,763 no-carry zones frequented by over 7 million Americans each day. 

d) Return on Investment

Business Results Summary


Member growth

Total Impressions

Public Support/Policy Change


Choose One




91% public support for assault weapon ban


Cannes lion

Skip Starbucks Saturday




Established new corporate policy – Guns no longer allowed in Starbucks 11,563 stores (1700 Target stores quickly followed suit)

Cassies Gold

Cannes shortlist (x8)

Groceries Not Guns





Established new corporate policy – Albertsons & Safeway  - Guns no longer allowed in 2424 grocery stores

Cannes lions (x9)

a) General Discussion

This is a modern day David vs. Goliath, funding for Moms demand action is a fraction (.1% in fact) of the revenue generated by the NRA. In 2013 The NRA raised nearly $225MM in which to “defend the constitution” – 75 million which came directly from gun manufacturers.

Creatively, “Skip Starbucks Saturday” and “Groceries Not Guns” and its components are the ultimate example of driving effective business results. We overachieved on each and every campaign objective and did so at very little cost to the organization. When measuring the effectiveness of this campaign against the explosion of awareness, public engagement, and ultimately the policy changes it brought, the ROI of our sustained efforts over the last 24 months is incalculable. 

All proving that pivoting our target from Government to Corporate  (Retail) America was a battle winning strategy in the war on gun reform that has the ability to make Retail America in its entirety a gun-free zone, which in turn will provide an impregnable foothold from which to challenge the grip of the almighty NRA on the legislature.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

The budget for the campaign was less than $350,000 - results were not driven by an increase in spending. 


The majority of campaign elements were through social media with limited national media investment with traditional spot buys in Cincinnati around Kroger’s corporate headquarters.

Distribution Changes:

Coverage has consistently been National. Aside from these listed here, no other campaign elements were used for during this time period. 

Unusual Promotional Activity:

The media budget was limited and all campaign elements and channels leveraged free capabilities that the social networks provide. Because of this, the question of price-cutting or high-value promotional activity is not applicable.

Other Potential Causes:

Any applicable factors have already been detailed in this case.